green silk 1860’s corset and shift

I’ve finished the corset and the shift.  Yay!  I feel quite accomplished.  I didn’t get the petticoat done, only because the fabric I ordered for it hasn’t arrived yet (it should get here tomorrow but I’ll have to wait until next week to start working on it.)

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sweet sheet stays

I’ve been bad, I know; I haven’t been taking pictures of anything I’ve been making.  I mentioned some time ago that I have a brand spankin new set of 18th century underthings.  I was going through my camera roll today, and realized that I didn’t take one single picture of the making of any of them!  however, I do have one decent (I guess) photo of my stays, so today I’ll talk about those.


and here they are.  (I look positively thrilled to be having my picture taken, no?)  a few weeks ago, I got all dolled up and went out into the very picturesque, yet hella cold snow to take some pictures.  this one was taken in the midst of me getting ready.

I drafted the pattern myself, starting with a basic conical block and adding seams to get the proper look of the mid-18th century stays.  I won’t go into detail about the pattern drafting, because I’m no good at explaining it, but Sidney Eileen has an excellent article on how to draft a conical block, which does a much better job explaining the process than I ever could.  I do mine basically the same way.  I made them strapless just because I didn’t have a pair of strapless stays yet, so why not?

these stays are fully boned with zip ties – my favorite – between two layers of heavy calico (this was, by the way, another stash project, and so I wasn’t much fussed about historical accuracy,) and the fashion layer is an old sheet that I thought was pretty.  it has this nice striped pattern with flowers, and so I smacked a big old flower right in the center.  pretty, girly – I love it.  in this picture, the stays still weren’t lined, but they now have been lined with a soft light blue linen.

the final product is imperfect.  the back needs to be higher – I was thinking that since I was omitting straps, I didn’t need to cut it as high, but in fact I do; the back tends to slide itself down under my shoulder blades if I slouch.  however, that aside, these stays are crazy comfortable – a lot more so than my other pair, which I think I might retire.  the shape of these stays is suited best to early to mid 18th century; very straight, flat, conical.  I’d still like to make a pair suited to the later part of the century, with that distinctive thrust shape.

oh, and as for the lacing… well, I had to dress myself, and the only way to accomplish that was to lace the stays loosely, slip them on, and then tighten from the middle, a la corsets of the next century.  so you can see the lacings tied around my waist.  I know that’s not period proper, but hey, what about this project was?

I’m nearly finished with the Ciel ball gown; just finishing up with some trim tonight.  so my next post will be about that!

civil war corset – finished up


just finished up the edge binding and have a few more pics.  I went digging through my drawer of bias tape and in the end went with plain white, under which I added a bit of crochet lace to the top of the corset.  I like the look overall.  I wish it wasn’t going into winter, because I’m itching to wear this with a cute summer skirt or something.  it’s an undergarment, but it’s so cute.

as you can see, it fits like bung on my dressform.  I had to completely unlace it to get it on and the front gaps.  also, that lumpiness at the top is where I stuffed some spare fabric bits behind the corset to fill it out.  you can see the shape of the corset pretty well, though.  I was feeling too slobby today to take pictures of myself wearing it, but it actually does look a lot better on a body than on the dressform.

anyhow, another project finished!  in less than two weeks, too!  I still have the shift and pantalettes to make, but I went to the fabric store yesterday to get some fabric and it was a madhouse, so I left without buying anything.  maybe next weekend.


on another subject, my mum just finally got a sewing machine of her own.  being, as I think I’ve mentioned, obsessed with Marie Antoinette, she wants to make a Marie Antoinette gown.  she doesn’t seem to understand what this really entails, although I tried to explain it to her, that it’s not just as simple as buying a pattern and sewing a dress.  in any case, we’ve decided to have our own little sew-along starting in the new year.

I have a few 18th century pieces made, but they’re not all that great, so I’m going to be starting from scratch, as will my mum, seeing that she has nothing.  we’re going to start with the undergarments and work our way up, and hopefully have the entire outfit finished in time for Halloween next year.  (I’m trying to explain to her that you can’t really just sit down over a weekend and whip out an entire 18th century outfit, but… well, I don’t think she’ll get it until we start working on this and she sees how much work it is. >_>)  I’d really like to hand-sew mine as much as I can, for accuracy.

we’re going to replicate gowns from the movie.  my mum wants to do the “letter” gown.  I haven’t 100% decided yet, but the one that really caught my eye is the “cards” gown (because naturally I have to incline towards one of the costumes that is only shown in a dismally short scene in the movie and of which there are virtually no good shots.)  I might change my mind, but for some reason that one really hooked me.

well, more on that later.  we begin in January (yay!)  to my reckoning, for the most basic 18th century outfit, we’ll each need a shift, stays, a petticoat, paniers, and the gown, which in itself will be a task.  I plan to have quite more than just those items, but my mum may not want to go the extra mile, so we’ll see.

civil war corset: nearly done!

finally got a thread rack today.  now there is some semblance of order, instead of the chaos that was the cardboard box I had up until now been tossing all my spools of thread haphazardly into D:  that creature there is Guido, my “sewing robot” (according to my mum.)  he sits up there and watches me work, and laughs when I do something ridiculous, like sewing two left halves of my corset.  (in my defense, it was early and I was tired and it’s a wonder I could even cut a straight line, let alone sew a corset.  I don’t know why I thought starting that project right then was a good idea.)

my civil war corset is nearly finished.  I spent most of the day today working on it.  last week I got as far as piecing together the inner layer.  the pattern, by the way, is Simplicity pattern 2890.

the first thing I did was to make a mock-up.  it was unclear from the picture on the package whether the stays were meant to be mid-bust, or if the model just had a rather small chest (I think both,) but what was obvious was that my chest was never going to fit into that the way it was.  the measurements fit me in all other aspects, so what I tried first was simply to add an inch to the top of the corset, extending the bust.  on the muslin, this ended up fitting really well, so I went with it.

the pattern was meant for a corset with one layer, but since I wanted to have two layers, I put the boning channels in on the “wrong” side.  you can see my raw edges; I didn’t bother with the because they were going to be on the inside of the corset.

the second picture is with the outer layer attached, with busk in.  at this point in the process, I was starting to be afraid that this corset was going to turn out tiny.  I had allowed for extra length at the back of the corset, like I always do, just because I know that things go wrong a lot.  I don’t know where that extra length went; by the time I was going to mark my lacing holes, there was precious little space left to do it.  you can see in the picture where my original holes were set.

adding grommets, and the final result.  as I’ve mentioned, there was a good deal less space between the back boning channels than I’d anticipated, and I was worried the grommets wouldn’t even fit.  luckily they did, but I probably could have gone with a size smaller grommet.  I laced it with yellow ribbon because that’s just what I had on hand, and also, it’s yellow! 😀

forgive my shitty in-the-mirror pictures.  it was a little snug in the end, but, well, it is a corset.  (ignore my jeans, and the pile of junk behind me.  sewing room, my ass!) the pattern gave two inches for a lacing gap, but when I put it on, mine was more like three inches.  I figure it’ll stretch with time, and if it doesn’t, I don’t care that much.  the pic from the side is horrid blurry, but you can see just how much volume (for lack of a better word) my chest takes up in this corset.  even with the inch added all round the top, it ends up coming to mid-bust on me.  sigh.

overall, I’m happy with this piece.  the pattern was good, even if the instructions weren’t all that clear.  I still have to do the binding but I’ll save that for tomorrow.  right now there’s a Doctor Who marathon calling me 😀

Ren Faire 2012 costume – yes, finally!

what?  it’s only been like three months since I updated this thing?! who knew?!

this summer completely got away from me.  in my defense, I’ve been so absurdly busy these past few months that I actually haven’t been working on my ren faire costume, therefore the lack of updates on that front is kind of legit.  I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff, though, so the lack of updates on the whole is just me being lazy and forgetful.

well, the faire is on saturday (yes, in two days,) and I’m nearly finished with my costume.  most of what I’ve accomplished has been over the past two weekends, because I’m a procrastinator like that and I always leave things to the last minute.


some pictures from construction, back in May.



the bodice on my dressform.  it fits on me much better than it does on the dressform, although it still is a bit too small – I tried to account for boob when I was drafting the pattern, but evidently I still underestimated.  still, I can squish myself into it, and it’s not uncomfortable – in fact, quite the opposite.  I’m glad I went with cording; the support is surprisingly comfy.

for some reason, it looks much more uneven on the dressform than it does on me (though it is a bit uneven.)


here’s the picture that will haunt me with shame.  ignore the awful half-assed lacing job and focus on the glaring unevenness.  now, I finished constructing this bodice sometime back in May, for the most part, and tried it on a number of times along the way to make sure everything was fitting okay.  and somehow, it wasn’t until this week, when I actually put the finished bodice on and laced it up, that I realized what (somehow) happened.  I don’t know where I went wrong.  the fit is still excellent and, in my opinion, it doesn’t look nearly this bad when I actually have it on myself (except for that weird tab on the left side.)  but the fact that it’s so uneven makes me itch.  I just don’t have time to take it apart and redo.  no one will see it, but that’s not the point. >_>

you can see that I cut off the extra-long tabs for lacing that I included, from research, in my original pattern.  I imagine their purpose is better served if the bodice is made with stiff boning, but with the cording, it served no support purpose and really just looked like a weird tail on the back, so I nixed it.


bodice with petticoat, and the gown front and back.  the gown needs to be hemmed still, as you see.  as with everything, the pieces look a lot better on me than they do on my form.  my waist is three inches smaller than the minimum my dressform will go, so the petticoat gaps on the form, and the dress doesn’t quite close all the way.  the gown is very simple and was influenced greatly by the techniques I found at The Tudor Costume Page.  it looks quite plain because I had trimmed it and it didn’t look very good so I took it off.  at this point I’m not sure I have the time to re-trim so I may just wear it plain.  also, there are sleeves, a la the gown I designed it after, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to wear them to the faire… it’s broken 100 every day this week so far and the heat wave here isn’t looking to abate any time soon, so I may have to go without.

also included in the costume are the shift and a caul.  I don’t have period shoes or anything like, but I’m kind of working on some shoe covers that may or may not be done/wearable by saturday, so who knows what I’m going to end up wearing.  I’ll be sure to have plenty of pictures from the faire so you can see what the outfit looks like when it actually fits properly.

so excited 😀 Ren Faire, here I come!

Ren Faire 2012 costume

I should have known that as soon as I said I wouldn’t begin any more big projects before the move, I would inevitably think up a big project that I just can’t wait to begin.  so here it is.  I’m planning to hit the Ren Faire this year, since I haven’t been in quite a few years, so naturally I have to dress up.

(love my crappy Skitch sketches, don’t you?)

the concept is not complicated: a shift, stays, and a bodiced gown.  as it will very likely be well over 90 degrees when I go, I opted for the lightest linen I could find at a reasonable price, instead of the more historically accurate wool.  the gown will be a mustard-yellow linen, a colour I just love, although I really wanted to make it in the green that I have pictured above – I just couldn’t find it.  I happened to find just under a yard of it in the remnants bin, however, so I decided I’ll just use it for the outer layer of my stays.  it will show a bit beneath the gown, which I like (though I just realized that I’m going to look like a medieval Packers fan with the green and gold… eurgh.)
the gown is pretty simple, nothing fancy – I don’t see the point in making a fabulous costume when it’s going to be hotter than the armpit of hell and will more than likely be covered in mud, horseshit, beer, and other Ren Faire effluvia by the end of the day.  I styled it after Danielle De Barbarac’s green work gown in Ever After, a movie I adore.  (I really, really wanted to replicate the gown down to the colour, but alas, JoAnn’s, no green linen.  sigh.)  a simple bodiced top, A-line skirt with pleats in the back, and tie-on sleeves.  (I’m going to be outdated a bit, as the Faire this year is set 1570’s, but oh well.)
I drew up the pattern myself from an image I found somewhere (I don’t know, it’s been saved on my desktop for-like-ever,) that I liked.  I pilfered a bunch of this tissue stuff from the garbage at work (after JoAnn’s, it’s my go-to for costuming supplies :p) because I thought it might be good for making patterns, and wow!  I don’t know what it is; it moves and drapes like fabric, but cuts like tissue, is transparent, and really strong.  it’s super-thin but doesn’t tear without making a cut first.  I just love it.  it comes as packing in the boxes of ink ribbon we get for our packing machine.  it’s fabulous.
I made the pattern a bit bigger than I thought I’d need, since it’s always easier to cut something down than it is to make it bigger, and because I’m planning on using cording for these stays instead of boning, so I figure that’ll take up a bit of volume.  since my costume is rather lower-class, I don’t really need that stiff cylindrical torso, and did I mention 90 degrees?  so yeah, no boning.
close-up of the tracing.  (can you tell I haven’t washed my fabric yet?  I know, I know, but I can’t use the laundry at night or the neighbors get pissed off, and I really wanted to get started, so I said screw it.  I really hope that won’t come back to bite me in the ass…)  this was my first successful go at using a tracing wheel, which up until now I had thought one of the most useless things in my sewing kit.  did I mention my pattern paper is strong?  yeah, I went over these pieces three or four times most of them (I kept tracing the wrong sides, ugh,) and that pattern is in great shape.  I began sewing the channels but I’d barely got started before the guy downstairs started banging on the ceiling, so that’s as far as I got today.  then I started on a bit of the cording, just to kind of get a feel for it and see how it will look, and I’m pleased.  I think it’s going to turn out nice.